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Growing public concern over democracy, freedom of expression: IPI survey

Kompas.com - October 25, 2020

Achmad Nasrudin Yahya, Jakarta – As many as 36 percent of respondents say that Indonesia has become less democratic according to the results of a national survey by Indonesian Political Indicator (IPI) conducted between September 24 and 30.

"Thirty-six percent (of respondents) said that Indonesia is less democratic", said IPI Executive Director Burhanuddin Muhtadi during a virtual press conference on Sunday October 25.

Meanwhile 37 percent of respondents said the democratic situation in Indonesia has not changed, 17.7 percent said that Indonesia has become more democratic and 9.3 did not know or did not answer.

Based on gender, 43.6 percent of female respondents and 28.4 percent of male respondents said that Indonesia has become less democratic.

The survey also showed that the majority of young people are of the view that Indonesia has become less democratic. Broken down, 40.3 percent of people under 21 years of age and 48.8 percent of people aged between 22 and 25 years said that Indonesia has become less democratic.

The opposite is the case for older respondents. For example, 36.8 percent respondents between the ages of 26 to 40, 33.1 percent of respondents between 41 and 55 years and 26.7 percent of respondents over 55 years of age disagreed that Indonesia has become less democratic.

Muhtadi said that older people had a different perspective because they compared the current situation with democracy under the New Order regime of former president Suharto. Unlike younger people, older people believe that the current situation is more democratic.

"Four young people, since being in the womb until they were born they have breathed the air of democracy. So they make an evaluation of the current situation compared with the situation post reformasi", he explained referring to the political reform process that began in 1998.

Fear of expressing an opinion

The survey also found that 21.9 percent of respondents of respondents agreed that people are increasingly afraid of expressing an opinion in public.

"In relation to agreeing or not with the view that people are increasingly afraid of expressing an opinion, those who agreed with this stood at 21.9 percent [of respondents]", said Muhtadi.

Muhtadi explained that 47.7 percent of respondents said that they somewhat agreed with this view and 22 percent of respondents did not really agree. Meanwhile 3.6 percent of respondents did not agree at all and 4.9 percent did not know or did not answer.

These findings show that the majority of the public tend to or very much agree with the view that people are increasingly afraid of airing an opinion.

Muhtadi said that the finding that the public is starting to feel afraid of speaking out should be an alarm bell for the government. Yet in the context of liberal participatory democracy, no matter what the situation people should be encouraged to speak out about issues.

"Regardless of the quality or lack of quality or if their views are for or against, a democracy must provide the same opportunities for those who are for or against the current government", he explained.

Arbitrary and bias state

Meanwhile the survey also found that the majority of respondents agreed that the state is increasingly acting in an arbitrary and bias manner towards those who have different political opinions from those in power.

Muhtadi explained that as many as 19.8 percent of respondents stated that the state has become increasingly arbitrary and bias while 37.9 percent of respondents somewhat agreed with this.

"So, if I was to combine (the responses) of those who agree and somewhat agree, this represents a majority", said Muhtadi, adding that that some 31.8 percent somewhat disagreed and only 4 percent completely disagreed with this.

So when combined, 35.8 percent of respondents do not agree that the state has become increasingly arbitrary and bias against those who hold different political views to those in power. Meanwhile 5.8 percent of respondents did not know or disagreed.

Muhtadi said that these finding are a warning to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to be careful because it sounds an alarm bell that civil freedoms are declining.

"He as a president who was born in the era of reformasi should be safeguarding the very costly legacy of reformasi, namely freedom and democracy", asserted Muhtadi.

Harder to protest

The IPI survey also found that 73.8 percent of respondents said that it had become increasingly difficult to hold protest actions. This comprises 20.8 percent of respondents who agreed and 53.0 percent who somewhat agreed.

Meanwhile as many as 19.6 percent of respondents somewhat disagreed and 1.5 percent of respondents totally disagreed with this. Some 5.1 percent of respondents did not answer or did not know.

"Those who very much agree (20.8 percent) are indeed somewhat equal with those who don't agree (19.6 percent)", said Muhtadi. "But those who stated that they somewhat agree, which is closer to agreeing or tending to agree, makes a majority (53 percent)", he continued.

If looked at by gender, 26.1 percent of male respondents very much agreed that has become more difficult to protest, 45 percent somewhat agreed, 20 percent somewhat disagreed and 2.1 percent completely disagreed, while 6.8 percent of male respondents did not answer.

Meanwhile 15.6 percent of female respondents very much agreed, 61 percent somewhat agreed, 19.2 percent somewhat disagreed and 1 percent completely disagreed. Some 3.3 percent of female respondents did not answer.

The IPI survey polled 1,200 randomly selected respondents covering almost all regions in Indonesia comprising 50.3 male respondents and 49.7 percent female. The survey was conducted by telephone interviews with a margin of error of 2.9 percent and a 95 percent level of confidence.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski based on four articles published by Kompas.com on October 15. The original title of the lead article was "Survei IPI: Mayoritas Anggap Indonesia Kurang Demokratis".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2020/10/25/17445871/survei-ipi-mayoritas-anggap-indonesia-kurang-demokrati